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Positional atrial flutter?

Copyright © 2010 Society of Hospital Medicine

A 68‐year‐old man with a history of congestive heart failure and hypertension presented to the emergency department with fatigue and dyspnea of 3 weeks duration. Physical examination was consistent with heart failure. In addition, a right upper extremity resting tremor was noticed. An electrocardiogram (ECG) revealed an atrial flutter with a conduction ratio of 4:1 (Figure 1A). He denied palpitations or a previous history of atrial flutter/fibrillation. Unlike typical atrial flutter, these flutter like waves were distinctly absent in lead III, the only limb lead not connected to the right arm.

Figure 1

(A) Patient's original electrocardiogram (ECG) with “flutter waves.” (B) ECG with patient's hand being held.

While holding the patient's right arm to control the tremor, a second ECG tracing was obtained. As expected the flutter like waves disappeared (Figure 1B). These ECG findings were attributed to the patient's tremor. A neurological consultation established a clinical diagnosis of Parkinson's disease. His congestive heart failure (CHF) was treated with increasing diuretics and appropriate treatment for Parkinson's disease was initiated.

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